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Worship and social justice

By Steven R. Marchand
 
It has been said that one of most striking characteristics of modernity is the fragmentation of the once-cohesive social fabric that held together political, moral and social communities. Concretely, this view of life results in many either-or ultimatums where a truly Christian view would suggest a both-and response.
 
In Catholicism, we hold many paradoxes together -- such as grace and nature, faith and reason, scripture and tradition, body and soul -- in such a way that each element remains in place in tandem with the other. True Christian teaching keeps us from veering into any kind of extremism.
 
Unfortunately, there crept into the minds of many in the Church in the mid and late 20th century a kind of dualism that pitted the worthy celebration of the liturgy against service to the poor and social activism. If one used resources to beautify the liturgy one was accused of stealing from the poor, and conversely, those laity, priests and religious who sought out the poor and marginalized were accused of abandoning prayer and the worship of God.
 
In reality, however, these two missions of the Church -- worship of God and service in the world -- are two sides of the same coin. It is impossible for the Christian community to worship God at Mass, hear the message of the Gospel and ignore those in need around them.
 
In the Old Testament, the connection between worship and justice is clear. In the Book of Amos we read, “Even though you offer me your burnt offering and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts I will not look upon. Take away from the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:22-24).
 
In the New Testament, St. Paul warns both who would seek to put worship and justice over the other in 1 Corinthians 10-11. He begins by pointing out that it is hypocritical for the community that celebrates the Mass to do so while the poor go hungry. He follows that by stressing the importance of eliminating abuses at the Lord’s Supper and participating in the Eucharist only worthily.
 
In fact, both the worship of God and service to the disadvantaged are aspects of justice and charity. We all have a duty to pray and worship God according to the mind of the Church, to offer to God only the best of what we have in our churches (like music and sacred art) as a matter of rendering to God what is due.
 
These worthy services are for the edification of the whole Christian people, the rich and poor alike. The virtue of religion helps us to grow in our relationship with God through our attention and participation in the liturgy. Our participation in the Eucharist ties us into the redeeming sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for our salvation.
As the Second Vatican Council reminded us, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the power and life of the Church. The King of Kings deserves all the glory we can render Him as He is made present again on our altars.
 
And serving the Lord at the altar should be part of a seamless life of Christian charity. The spiritual treasure we receive at Mass should inspire and inflame our hearts with charity in service to our neighbor. Indeed, the Christian’s motive for social service and justice is that Christ himself is served when we serve those in need.
 
There is no contradiction then between service at the altar of the Cross and the altar of world, for Christ died that we all might have life and have it to the full.
 
As Catholics, we are all obliged to attend Mass with a pure heart and with great praise. At the end of every Mass, we are equally challenged to bring the
Good News and the love that we have first received from Christ into the world.
 
Let us worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness and remember that we serve the same Christ in both our worship and our service.
 
--Steven R. Marchand, a seminarian for the Diocese of Burlington, is scheduled to be ordained to the transitional diaconate by Bishop James F. Checchio, bishop of Metuchen, on Sept. 28 in Rome at the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican at the Altar of the Chair.
 

Originally published in Vermont Catholic magazine, Fall 2017.
 

Music publisher's mission to spread Gospel

The new leader of America's largest publisher of Catholic worship music started out as a blue-collar worker in the company's warehouse.

Wade Wisler, 49, was a shipping clerk when he began at Portland-based Oregon Catholic Press in 2000.
 
By the time Portland Archbishop Alexander Sample named him the new publisher March 14, 2017, Wisler had distinguished himself as an ad copy writer, editor of a quarterly worship magazine and director of a division that develops new music for use in churches.
 
"I know that he is the ideal person to bring his experience, his commitment to the church, and his deep and abiding faith to lead OCP into this next era," Archbishop Sample said.
 
OCP, a not-for-profit in operation for more than 90 years, sells music for choirs and songbooks like "Today's Missal," "Breaking Bread," "JourneySongs" and "Flor y Canto" to three-fourths of Catholic parishes in the United States. The worship aids also go worldwide, including to the United Kingdom, Australia, Vietnam, the Philippines and China.
 
OCP publishes Latin chant, contemporary music in many languages and "Spirit & Song," a hymnal for Catholic youth. It also produces recordings.
 
"Our primary mission is to spread the Gospel, serve the church, and help people around the world to pray and worship through music," Wisler told the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland. "That is something I am passionate about."
 
Wisler replaces John Limb, who is retired at the end of April after 31 years at the company, 25 as publisher. OCP, which also publishes the Catholic Sentinel and El Centinela, the archdiocese's Spanish-language newspaper, went through a meteoric advance during Limb's tenure. In addition to serving more parishes than any other liturgical publisher, OCP has led the way in Spanish Catholic worship publications.

Wisler plans to remain on Limb's course.
 
"The company is doing well," Wisler said. "I want to stay out of the way and let people do the good work they have been doing for so long."
 
Limb plans to devote more time to boards and organizations, but he will be working with the new publisher to ensure a smooth transition at OCP.
 
Wisler, a University of Michigan graduate, is a musician and a proficient Spanish speaker. He said the most important people OCP serves are the worshippers in the pews. He realizes that music can enhance or impede a person's encounter with God.
 
"We always have been looking at the church, looking at the changing needs of the church, and have been willing to adapt to meet those needs," Wisler said.
 
Challenges OCP faced under Limb, and will continue to wrestle with under Wisler, include the shift from print to digital publishing and the trend in dioceses to close or consolidate parishes.

In addition to publishing music, OCP gives financial support to good causes, including the Archdiocese of Portland and the Diocese of Baker.

OCP is a major sponsor of Encuentro, a multiyear catechetical and information-gathering event among Latinos in the U.S. Catholic Church. About 8 percent of employees are Spanish speakers and "Flor y Canto" is the best-selling Spanish hymnal in the country. The company offers workshops at parishes to help staff improve their ministry to Hispanics.

A grants program allows parishes across the nation to enhance their worship.

In May, OCP will visit the Diocese of Burlington.

On Friday, May 19th, composers from OCP will offer a free concert at St. John Vianney Church in South Burlington, titled "Sing Praise to God All the Earth." Music featured is inspired by reflection on Pope Francis' encyclical, "Laudato Si'." RSVP

On Saturday, May 20th, a conference will be held at Saint Michael's College in Colchester. The "Sing Praise to God Conference" is a day of music, learning, and inspiration for liturgical musicians. Details and RSVP: Sing Praise to God Conference
 
 

New director of worship to assist parishes with liturgical catechesis, formation

The Diocese of Burlington has hired a director of worship to assist parishes with liturgical catechesis and formation and to ensure Masses are celebrated with reverence, care and attention.
 
Joshua J. Perry also will coordinate the planning and celebration of diocesan liturgies such as the Rite of Election, Chrism Mass, priestly and diaconate ordinations and priest’s funerals and serve as a resource for confirmation celebrations.
 
Born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., in 2003 and a master’s in Liturgical Studies from St. John’s University and School of Theology in Collegeville, Minn., in 2009.
 
He worked as the coordinator of liturgical celebrations at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis as well as director of worship for a 1,500-family suburban parish (St. Therese Parish in Deephaven, Minn.). Most recently, he was the liturgist at Villanova University.
 
“Effective liturgy engages us and invites us to full, active and conscious participation through ritual, posture, gesture, words, singing and silence,” he said. “It is full of signs and symbols; effective liturgy is the full use of those signs and symbols so that our senses are engaged – sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing – and not just our minds.”
 
Reporting directly to Phil Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington, Perry’s main area of responsibility is liturgical catechesis and formation, offering parishes throughout the diocese assistance in their own efforts in these areas, especially working with liturgical ministers -- lectors, altar servers, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, musicians and clergy.
 
“But the Church also recognizes the importance of the worshipping assembly – those who are ‘in the pews’ and called to fully, actively and consciously participate in their own way in the liturgy,” he said. “These catechetical efforts are for them as well so that they may more deeply engage in the liturgy. Because of the importance of liturgical catechesis and formation, this office is a part of the larger Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.”
 
Another of his responsibilities is to ensure that liturgies are celebrated with reverence, care and attention – “to let our liturgy be the best we can offer given our particular situations and resources,” he continued. “Diligent celebration allows us to better reflect on the power of liturgy, and this reflection, in turn, encourages us to more diligent celebration.”
 
Perry hopes to foster and encourage devotion to Our Lord in the Eucharist through Exposition and Adoration and to Our Lady.
 
Also, the way parishes celebrate other important moments in people’s lives is also important: baptisms, weddings and funerals. He hopes to encourage positive liturgical celebrations of those times too.
 
“Occasional Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer celebrated communally can be a wonderful addition to Lenten or Advent observances,” he said. “The Church has official blessings for any number of occasions -- there’s a big book of blessings aptly called ‘Book of Blessings,’ and I would like to encourage parishes break open that resource.”
 
Perry hopes in the coming months to provide regional workshops and evenings of reflection so that those involved in liturgy or those who simply want to go deeper in liturgy have time and space to reflect on their liturgical experience.
 
In his first year on the job, he hopes to visit all the parishes/worship sites for Sunday Mass and meet with people from different parts of the diocese to get their sense of the liturgy.
 
He lives in Fairfax with his 10-year-old Akita dog, Ada.
 
 
 
  • Published in Diocesan
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